SNCF’s Director, Freight, Luc Nadal, said on October 29 that the Perpignan – Figueres line now being built by concessionaire TP Ferro was not suitable for freight traffic - despite the fact that it was expressly designed as a mixed-traffic railway.
Asked to explain why, Nadal cited three problems. First, the grades on the international link were ‘too steep’ for freight trains to be hauled by a single locomotive, he said. Two locos would be needed, with a banker required in most cases. Second, the access charges would be too high; Nadal remarked that former SNCF President Louis Gallois had made this point soon after the concession was awarded. Third, the 8·2 km tunnel through the Pyrenees will not be fitted with the standard French KVB automatic train protection system, but only with ETCS Level 2. This will require the use of specially-equipped locomotives. Not only that, but any locomotive using the route would need to have tri-voltage capability: 25 kV 50 Hz, 1·5 kV DC and 3 kV DC.
Nadal said there were simply ‘too many costs’, so much so that it would be necessary to study the installation of a third rail on the existing Spanish broad gauge line into Spain - presumably via Port Bou. ‘I am not saying that the line will never be used by freight trains’, Nadal concluded, ‘but there will be a huge extra cost to use the 8 km tunnel.’